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All normal minor kids and teens cause family and social problems. If someone
judges the problems as "too serious" or "too frequent," the child may be
labeled as "difficult" and/or a "problem child."
This article is written
to adults concerned about such a child. It
summarizes (a) general surface problems, (b) typical underlying primary
and (c) practical options for adults to help themselves and troubled kids.
This brief YouTube video focuses on parenting "difficult" kids effectively. The video refers to eight lessons in this self-help Web
site. I've reduced that to seven.
Think of a "problem child" who has affected your life. Such kids may lie,
cheat, steal, bully, defy, withhold, act "irresponsibly," fail
and/or disrupt school,
are "social misfits," "hyperactive," disrespectful, "selfish," sneaky,
lazy, rebellious, defiant, aggressive, hostile, promiscuous, arrogant, and so on. You may empathize with such kids' caregivers as
"trying their best with a bad child." Most over-busy parents and school
staff tend to focus on
restraining and "fixing" "troubled" boys and girls.
typical surface problems are that a "problem child'"
aggravates adults and
other kids too often. and/or s/he...
is choosing self-harmful
behaviors, activities, and relationships; and...
isn't "responding well
enough" to attempts to correct or change his/her troublesome attitudes
These are stressful - and
are not the real issues.
I propose that there are\
up to seven underlying concurrent reasons causing these three surface problems:
1) The child's birth parents are
(c) they made unwise
commitment and/or conception choices
and (d) are unable to parent effectively.This means...
2) The child has been
probably been raised in a
developmental needs haven't been filled
well enough. Typical
minor kids can't identify and assert their needs for...
respectful attention and
feeling genuinely loved, valued,
and safe in their home and family,
trust that their adults will reliably
comfort, guide, and protect them;
help learning how to assert their needs
and boundaries respectfully, and to
encouragement, despite mistakes, conflicts, and confusion;
respectful, consistent discipline -
(rules and consequences).
Were these needs filled well enough, often enough when you were growing up?
A child's troublesome behavior is an
instinctive attempt to survive, fill current needs,and manage
inner pain, It is usually reflexive and instinctive, rather than
3) Atroubled child
is half the
problem. To survive a
low-nurturance environment, s/he is probably evolving protective, short-sighted,
false selves which "act out."
The child didn't choose this, doesn't know
it, and can't control itwithout
patient, informed adult help. Unless corrected by family and
individual therapy, this promotes a
fear-based personality and a
More primary problems with "problem"
Caregivers and authorities
are focusing on surface problems, and don't know this or what to do about it.
They lack the knowledge, awareness, and courage to focus on
wound-reduction (Lesson 1
education, and proactively
breaking the [wounds +
may argue over who is "at fault" and who is responsible for "fixing" the
"problem child." Such amplifies personal, family, and social conflict.
Arguing is usually
caused by the adults' wounds, and their
unawareness of the primary problems. Psychological wounds cause
inflammatory finger-pointing (blaming), defensiveness, resentment, and
denial (reality distortion Chronic arguing
and fighting is always a sign of an inability to assert,
listen, and do win-win
Another primary problem causing kids' "problem behavior" is...
The way adults try to "fix" the child.
Exasperated family adults and school staff try to change the child by
loss of privileges
These may temporarily reduce or stop the child's problematic
behaviors. However, none of these "solutions" resolve the underlying
primary problems, which promotes "relapsing.".
Did the adults who raised you use any of these solutions with you? Do you
remember how that felt? These choices tend to shame, hurt, frustrate, anger, and alienate the
child, which invites more"acting out."
The adults' "solution"
unintentionally adds to the problem
When such solutions fail, some parents resort to sending the child to
"military school" and/or individual therapy, This probably will not permanently resolve the
the appropriate clinical help
needed isfamilytherapyinvolving at least the child and all active
few "child therapists" know
these underlying primary problems or what to do about them. They
don't know what they don't know, which promotes ineffective
__ 7) The final
overarching reason for problem kids' "acting out" is social
ignorance + denial + indifference to these six interactive problems and
their toxic effects.
Notice your reaction to this
opinion. Does it
seem realistic? Do you agree with it? Would your other family adults
and supporters agree? If not, what is your explanation for
"problem children"? Bad genes? Hormones? The wrong friends?
TV, music, and video games? Drugs?
So - what can caring adults do to permanently reduce or end stress with
a "problem child"?
Paradox: if you're psychologically wounded, protective false selves will;
discourage you from following these options. If so, you may have to
before you can overcome this barrier. See #3 below.
Based on the premises above,
can't permanently improve your
"problem child's" attitudes and behavior by
yourself. Your family adults
Stabilize any child-related family crisis, and adopt a long-range
outlook (e.g. 10-20 years).
your problem as family dysfunction, not a bad / defective / sick /
troubled / problem child; and you can...
Encourageall your family adults and
any lay and professional supporters to patiently work together on these
1) KEY: read and discuss this overview of the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle. Then commit to
break the cycle
over time, and protect all your living and unborn kids from its
__ 2) Learn - take these
quizzes to motivate you to study and discuss
Lessons 1 thru 6 or 7 in this nonprofit Web site. The objective is to improve the
of your family over time for all your sakes. Learn to think of your
multi-generational family as a dynamic
__ 3) Adults - including
grandparents - identify,
reducing your respective psychological wounds - i.e.,
each other apply Lesson 1,
__ 4) Learn and apply effective communication skills
(Lesson 2), and how to communicate effectively with
kids and each
other. For effective-communication options with
"difficult people," see these examples.
Then use your skills to...
__ 6) Learn, discuss, and
resolving typical (family)
relationship problems. As you work to improve your family's
nurturance level, Consider hiring an experienced
therapist to help you. Other lay and professional counselors and clinicians are apt to focus only on the
child and the surface problems.
__ 7) If your "problem child" is a teen, see
__ 8) If the child is in a separated
divorcing family, add these
special needs to her/his existing developmental needs.
__ 9) All you family adults
discuss and apply these ideas on how to evaluate
your child's current needs.
__ 10) If your child may be
addicted to something, see and discuss these
__ 11) If your
child is significantly to extremely wounded, use these relationship
focused: your overarching target is
protecting all your living and unborn kids from the lethal [wounds + unawareness]cycle. For
incentive, scan these research items
about Grown Wounded Children (GWCs).
Together, these options aim to (a) heal family adults' wounds, (b) convert
their ignorance with awareness, and (c)
significantly improve their
"problem child's" family environment over time. Restated:: these options aim
to help caregivers fill a "problem child's" unmet needs effectively, over
Pause, breathe, and reflect on what you just read. Are you motivated to follow
each of these
suggestions? If you answer "No," suspect that protective
false selves dominate you. If so, YOU are a major part of your family's dysfunction and
your child's "problems."
Lesson-6 article proposes that "problem kids'" attitudes and behaviors are
not the problem. It proposes three common surface problems with "troubled kids," and
underlying primary problems:
parents making unwise
commitment and child-conception choices;
(low-nurturance) home and family environment;
family adults'' inability to
know and fill their kids' developmental and special needs effectively;
adults focusing on surface
problems, rather than these primary ones..
the way adults try to
change the child's attitudes and behaviors; and...
social unawareness, denial,
and indifference to these six problems
Implication: the child or
teen is only half the problem at most.
The article concludes with specific suggestions for
family adults and supporters aimed at improving three of these primary
problems. As that happens and kids' needs are met more effectively,
their problem attitudes and behaviors can improve over time.